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How to right a capsized kayak

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Capsizing and Righting - Useful tips & guide

Now that you've mastered the right way, how to use the paddle, how to turn a kayak, how to stop a kayak, it is time to learn something more advanced. Every seasoned kayaker will experience capsizing one day.

It is not if it is going to happen. It is more a matter of when. It's an essential part of the experience, whether you do it on purpose or for fun, you have to try capsizing at least once to really complete your kayaking experience and to prepare yourself.

The easiest way to recover your kayak after capsizing is employing a technique called the Eskimo Roll.

  • If your kayak is going to fully capsize, you will need to anticipate it. Before you’re completely submerged you need to bring your paddle parallel the kayak, rolling your wrist forward.

  • As the kayak is upside down, turn the paddle and reach out to grab the water, bringing your paddle up near the surface of the water.

  • Use your hips to allow you to flip the kayak back upright. This is the most important part. Your arms are not the key part of allowing you to turn back up. They only help position the paddle. Your hips are the ones doing the work here.

While you are underwater, you need to throw your hips to the right and to the left, almost as if you are wiggling in your seat. This is the momentum that is going to allow your kayak to turn back upright.

After this, you should have already recovered your capsized kayak. You need to practice this move a couple times before you can truly master it. It is essential to know this move when you’re out kayaking because you never know when you might capsize and you will need to put these skills to test. Safety is truly of utmost importance when you’re out at in the open sea.

Falling out of your seat while capsizing

If you should fall out of the cockpit while kayaking, make sure to not to panic and stay with the boat.

  • Firstly, you will have to return your kayak into an upright position. Simply reach under your kayak and grab on to both sides of the cockpit rim to push it over and flip it upright.
  • Once your kayak is upright, you’ll have to reach across to the opposite side of it and simply pull your whole body up and onto the kayak, as if you were getting out of a swimming pool.
  • Now that you’re on the kayak again, you need to position yourself back into your sitting position by flipping your body over and sliding yourself back into your seat.

You now know how to get back onto your kayak once you’ve capsized whether be it while still in the kayak or if you fell out of the kayak.

At the end of the day, you need to be careful when you do this because waters can be rather unpredictable. Although recovering from a capsized kayak can be quite fun to practice, never do it unsupervised.

Normally these techniques are taught in class and practiced in the calmest of conditions or in pools so that they become second nature to the newly minted paddler.


In the section, we covered how to get back into the kayak unaided. Sometimes the kayaks don’t allow for a smooth re-entry due to the beam of the craft or other reasons. In this case, we would use a paddle float to help us get back on board which is normally stowed forward under the bow bungees.

Simply put, they are inflatable sleeves that fit around one end of the paddle. The end that is inflated floats on the water white the other end of the paddle is placed or rather stuck under the bungees aft of the cockpit forming an outrigger. This should give you enough leverage and stabilization to be able to get back into the cockpit.

Sometimes, however, the kayak has taken on too much water and you need to use your pump which is also stowed in an easily accessible place like under the bow bungees. Typically, kayaks are designed to convey a 235lb person. 1 pint of water weighs in at a pound. Therefore, you can see how heavy a waterlogged kayak may become. Before you slide back into the cockpit try to get as much water out as you can.

Normally this technique is taught in class and practiced in the calmest of conditions or in pools so that they become second nature to the newly minted paddler.

Universal Communication

I thought it proper since we just finished the Rules of the Road to continue on this theme and introduce you to the universal communication that kayaks use. There are five signals altogether. There are Stop, Distress/ Emergency, All Clear, Directions and Are you OK?

  • Stop
    Using both hands hold the paddle straight up over your head. Other people behind you should stop and wait for further signals from you.

  • Distress/ Emergency/ Help
    The kayaker should blow three whistle blasts. There should be a a whistle or horn aboard oe attached to your pdf. Hold the paddle up vertically and wave it from side to side to indicate distress. All others should remain at distance unless trained in emergency response.

  • All Clear
    The paddle supported by one hand is held straight up in the air.

  • Directions
    Hold the paddle vertically and indicate the direction you want to head out in. The way should be clear and free from obstacles.

  • Are you OK?
    With your hands, point to the person in question and tap three times on top of your head/ helmet.


I have taken you through a lot of information in the preceding sections. It is going to take some time to process. Kayaking is all about practice. Don’t worry, it will all come together.

I had a lot of goals when I set out to write this guide, but the most important was to shed light on kayaking and to get you out on the water.

Whether you have never been kayaking or would like to know enough to join a local paddle club or you plan on getting your own kayak, this guide has something for you.

Have fun & be safe!

Samuel Affleck

Samuel is a co-founder of Nature Immerse. If you want to enjoy the charm and beauty of ocean and mountain in different seasons or want to go hiking through the fragrant flora amidst breathtaking scenery, just follow his footstep for the exploration of nature.

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